The vast majority of people facing hunger are living in developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where millions of people are faced with weak food security and the need of continuing food aid.
African countries, however, have the potential to enhance their food security. With a view to support this potential, MTT Agrifood Research Finland is coordinating the FoodAfrica Programme implemented in West and East Africa. The main funder of the programme is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
The FoodAfrica Programme is an extensive research and development programme improving food security; access to food, safety of food and food quality in West and East Africa. Special emphasis is put on small-scale farmers, many of whom are women.
– Africa is a continent that could feed its own population and even more. This is possible if sufficient resources and efforts are put into development of agriculture and food processing; and if also these actions are targeted right, says the director of the FoodAfrica Programme, Professor Hannu Korhonen from MTT Agrifood Research Finland.
Finnish and international expertise is utilized for better food security
What makes the FoodAfrica Programme special is its academic as well as geographical extent. In addition to MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Programme partners are four international agricultural research institutions (CGIAR), the University of Helsinki and HAMK University of Applied Sciences. The FoodAfrica Programme is implemented in seven countries; Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Sénégal, and Uganda.
The overall objective of the Programme is to provide knowledge and tools for local researchers, officials and farmers to improve food security. This is done through research, training and extension activities.
The Programme activities focus on soil micronutrient deficiencies, increasing milk production through cattle breeding, improvement of nutrition through more diverse diets, reduction of health risks caused by mycotoxins and utilization of ICT technology for marketing agricultural produce.
In addition, the Programme applies novel extension approaches for transfer of research results to stakeholders within the food chain.
– To reach the targets of the Programme, Finnish expertise is utilized together with international and local research inputs. Finnish partners have high-level expertise in most of the Programme areas, but the main objective of the cooperation is to strengthen local know-how, says Korhonen.
Fighting hunger by developing agriculture
The main funding agency for the FoodAfrica Programme is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Finland’s new development policy programme takes a human rights-based approach to development. The objective of the policy is to ensure that also the most vulnerable people are aware of their rights and are able to work for the fulfillment of these rights.
Reaching global food security is one of the top challenges within international development policy. The right to healthy and safe food is part of a dignified human life. The three cross-cutting objectives of Finnish development cooperation – gender equality, reducing inequality and climate proofing – are streamlined also throughout FoodAfrica activities.
The Development policy guidelines on agriculture and food security, published by the Ministry in 2010, emphasize development of the functionality of the food chain, improving living conditions in rural areas, and ensuring food security of the developing countries.
Rural development responds to the UN Millennium Development Goal to half the number of people living in absolute poverty and hunger by 2015. Even though positive results have been achieved, efforts to reduce malnutrition must be continued.
To this end, an increase in agricultural and food research and training, which targets improved food security, is especially emphasized in the new development strategies of the UN, EU, and the World Bank.
The budget of the FoodAfrica Programme is 11,7 million Euros. The now launched Programme will be implemented until the end of 2015.
Professor Hannu Korhonen, Programme Director, MTT
Mila Sell, Programme Coordinator
Anu Penttinen, Regional Cooperation, East and West Africa, MFA